Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: HOME (02/07/19)
TITLE: Beyond Feathers, Flesh, and Bone
By Betty Castleberry
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Shaking, I reached in and picked him up. He only weighed three quarters of a pound, but his personality had been huge. I didn’t even realize I was crying until the tears dripped onto his tiny chest. My heart was broken, but I knew Holly would be devastated. Although she was only seven, she loved the little parrot fiercely.
She laughed when he called to her when she came home from school. He sat on her shoulder when she played games on her tablet or watched TV with her dad and me. Simon’s vocabulary was remarkable. He could say anything he really wanted to.
He knew us all by name and called me Mama more often than he called me Dana.
Simon could count to five and sometimes farther, if he was in the mood. He could whistle and sing along with popular songs, and he made up his own lyrics if he didn’t know them all.
Oh, he wasn’t always perfect. He chewed things he shouldn’t, like baseboards and tee shirts, and for a small bird, he could make an awful lot of noise.
It was hard to believe the tiny body I now held would no longer do any of those things. We would miss his antics, even the naughty ones. I stroked the soft gray feathers on his back, knowing it would be for the last time, and thought, Why God? Why do you need a little bird? You have so much. Can’t we keep him? You know how much fun we had with him and you know we love him. You know Holly loves him. How am I going to tell her he’s gone? This is not fair. Not fair at all. I want him back. You can make that happen, Lord. Just give him back. Please.
I begged while I cried, knowing it wasn’t going to happen. Okay, Lord, if I can’t have him back, can you at least let me know where he is? You have promised we will have an eternal home with you, but what about our beloved pets? Your word doesn’t specifically say, but surely if Heaven is perfect, they will be there. I know there are animals in Heaven because it says in Revelation You will be riding a white horse when You return. Simon was more than flesh and bone. He had a personality. He must be somewhere because there’s no way that magnetic little ball of energy could just cease to exist. Lord, I need to know he is okay.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Holly coming in the front door. I had been so distracted I hadn’t heard the bus drop her off. Swallowing hard, I prayed for guidance as to what to tell her.
She came running into the family room carrying her back pack, her silky brown ponytail falling out of its holder. “Mama,” she began, waving a school paper. She stopped short when she saw me holding Simon. “What’s wrong with Simon?’ she asked, coming closer.
“Honey,” I said, leading her to the sofa. “You know he was very sick, right?”
She nodded, staring at his body.
“Well, he didn’t make it. He died.”
For a minute, she sat quietly, then said, “He can’t come back, right?”
“Right,” I told her, even though I had asked God basically the same question just minutes before.
Her soft brown eyes filled with tears. “I love Simon, Mama.”
“I know, baby. We all do.” Despite my attempt to be brave, the tears started to flow again as I listened to my little girl.
She wiped her eyes with back of one hand. “Where is he now?”
Almost startled, I realized how much her questions were like my own. I struggled to find an answer for her, but when I opened my mouth to speak, I found the words had been given to me. “He’s in Heaven. He wasn’t meant to live with us forever.”
I was reminded at that moment God cares about the things we care about, so surely he cares about our pets. I believed, then, that Simon was with Him.
She touched the tiny body. “He’s gone home, hasn’t he, Mama?”
I smiled at her wisdom. “Yes, baby. He’s home.”
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